In 2007, a black and white video of a philosophical black and white cat named Henri changed cat videos forever. Millions of views and legions of fans later, Henri has charmed cat lovers with his unique brand of wisdom laced with existential angst. The perfect accompaniment to the videos or more accurately films, arrived earlier this year as a book Henri, le Chat Noir: The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat. It’s smart, acerbically funny and chock-full of photos and witticisms of droll Henri and his fur bro, a white cat he calls l’imbecile blanc.
Henri or Henry as he’s known to intimates has an interpreter, narrator and director, the writer and filmmaker Will Braden. He’s a 33-year-old lifelong cat lover based in Seattle with degrees in film and music and a self-deprecating wit who calls himself “The Thieving Filmmaker”. I interviewed him at the recent Friskies Awards in New York and we chatted at length this week. He has a dry deadpan humor that cracked this reporter up more than once.
Life is never black and white for Will who has a new cat named Nin, named after the French writer Anais Nin. The cat is frisky teenager, part Bengal and bound for stardom in the new year. Stay tuned. I’ll be doing a feature article about Will, his new projects and what it means to be a cat man, but a short Q + A will have to suffice today.
The video that launched a feline philosopher’s empire.
Q. + A. with Layla Morgan Wilde and Will Braden
LMW: Who is your favorite Nouvelle Vague film and director?
WB: Oh, François Truffaut for sure. The 400 Blows is just so amazing. Jean Renoir is also great, and I think he was one of the first few real geniuses of cinema, that saw it could be as important an art form as literature or painting. I think Le Grande Illusion is up there with any great work of art in any medium.
LMW: Favorite philosopher?
WB: As much as Henri is an existentialist, I am definitely not. I guess I’m more of a Thoreau/Emerson transcendentalist. I’m not so concerned with whether or not my hand exists, just what I ought to be doing with it.
LMW: Have you been to France? How is Henri and your films received there?
WB: I have been to France a few times, but not since the success of the Henri films. I think I would be ashamed to admit that the butchered French was mine. Although I should say that French people who have contacted me about the films are generally pretty forgiving of the French. They see it as “so bad it’s funny”, for the most part. It’s the Americans who speak French that give me a hard time.
LMW: Do you think cats have souls and if so, do they have an after life or reincarnate? Who might Henri been in another life?
WB: I think if we have souls, cats must have them as well. Theirs are just furrier. I suppose Henri could be a reincarnation of Albert Camus’ cat, Stranger.
French philosopher Albert Camus and his cat Stranger
LMW: What famous cat lover/artist/writer/musician or filmmaker, dead or alive would you love to meet?
LMW: It’s increasingly hot or hip to be a cat man: have you always been one and how do woman perceive you differently since the Henri fame?
LMW: Why do you think cats ate culturally hot and growing hotter?
Will is generously offering Cat Wisdom 101 readers an exclusive giveaway prize sure to brighten the most cat lover One lucky reader will win an autographed copy of Henri Le Chat Noir, an Henri t-shirt and 2014 calendar. To enter our giveaway simply leave a comment before 11:59 pm ET, Dec.1, 2013.
For extra chances to win, subscribe to Cat Wisdom 101, follow Cat Wisdom 101 on Facebook Twitter @catwisdom101 or social media share and tell us in a separate comment where you shared or followed. Thanks and good luck, bon chance!
To learn more about Henri, the videos and what’s in his shop, visit the official website Henrilechatnoir.com
If you feel like you must have an immediate jolt to cure your ennui, visit Amazon and look inside the book. better yet, buy it. Will donates a portion of all sales to animal rescue. A favorite cause of his in Seattle is PAWS.org